What Man United Would Be Getting If They Signed Tanguy Ndombele

According to a Sky Sports report (via France Football), Manchester United are the ‘most determined‘ club in Europe currently being linked with Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Tanguy Ndombele.

What would Man United be getting if they did indeed purchase the French international?

Well they’d be getting a youngster full of potential.

At just just twenty-one years of age, Ndombele has made over fifty Ligue 1 appearances and has four senior caps to his name. This season he’s looked good in his five Champions League outings.

The central midfielder can also operate as a defensive midfielder. In European football this term, Tanguy has made on average 2.2 tackles per game and that’s better than any United player (in the same competition).

It’s his composure and his passing skill-set that seems to make the Lyon man are star in the making.

The midfielder’s fairly strong when on the ball, he’s also smart enough to know where teammates and opponents are and that allows him to make great passes and dodge challenges. Ndombele also posses great close control and that sees him to get out of pressured situations in the busy engine room.

When you look at the stats at Whoscored, you’ll notice how successful the Frenchman’s passing ability has been during this campaign.

In Ligue 1 this term, the middleman has a 89.1% passing success rate. Only Memphis Depay has bettered the twenty-one year old’s four assists so far this season. On average he’s making 52.1 passes per top flight game and around 1.4 key passes.

Ndombele is also a player for the bigger occasions. He produced two assists in Lyon’s win over Marseille and grabbed goals in both Champions League matches against Bundesliga cracks Hoffenheim.

Against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side last month; no OL player made as many passes, had as many accurate passes or as many touches of the ball as Tanguy Ndombele.

We know Man United boss Jose Mourinho wants more balance in his midfield. He’s stated in The Independent that midfield summer signing Fred can’t currently get into the starting line-up because the team isn’t solid enough defensively:

“I think Fred, when the team is defensively stronger, and does not need him in midfield – people that are more worried in giving some balance to the team than being involved in creation and attacking dynamics – the day we are stronger defensively, the horizons for Fred change completely.”

Ndombele could give them added steel as well as his eye for a pass in deeper positions. That could allow Jose to get more out of Fred or Paul Pogba.

One sticking point could be getting Lyon agreeing to a deal that will see them losing a prized asset. If the French side win their last group game, then they’re into the knock stages of the Champions League and they might be more inclined to keep all their players for that and only sell talent in the summer.

We all know OL President Jean-Michel Aulas is a very tough negotiator. It’s already being rumoured in media outlets like The Mirror, that the Ligue 1 club want £90m for the midfielder.

Would Man United be ready to fork out such a hefty sum for a twenty-one year old that hasn’t played too many Champions League games? His age and ability would maybe convince him he’s worth the risk but if they may worry that he won’t hit his full potential!

The player himself might think twice about moving to Old Trafford given that compatriots Anthony Martial and Pogba seem to have frosty relationships with their manager.

It would be an interesting move if it were to happen but I think there’s still a few hurdles to leap over before we can say a move is imminent. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

 

Could Matteo Guendouzi Help Solve Arsenal’s Defensive Crisis?

Arsenal’s injury list is fairly building up, with key defensive personnel currently missing as the festive period approaches.

In recent weeks, Unai Emery has decided to play with a back three to a degree of success as the Gunners managed to keep their unbeaten run going.

Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding were a big part in that tactic being a success alongside Greek internationalist Sokratis.

Unfortunately for Gunners coach Emery, both Holding and Mustafi have now picked up knocks.

Holding has an ACL injury and that could keep him out for at least six months according to Unai (via The Physio Room):

“He will undergo surgery to repair this in the coming days. The rehab process is expected to take between six to nine months.”

While German centre-back Shkordan has an issue with his hamstring and he may miss some game time but that’s not been confirmed.

Young central defender Konstantinos Mavropanos could’ve been called into action but unfortunately the twenty year old’s still nursing a groin injury and hasn’t returned to full training, as of yet.

Better news comes in the form of club captain Laurent Koscielny. The Frenchman has been out for the past seven months due to a serious achilles injury but he’s back in training and featured for the reserve side.

Gunners goalkeeper Bernd Leno told The Independent that it was great having the captain back in the fold:

“He is the perfect captain for us. In training, you see how he is talking to other players. We have many young players and he talks to them, and for me he is a big personality in the team, in the dressing room.”

The only issue regarding Koscielny would be his lack match sharpness.

It would be ideal to play him in Thursday’s Europa League tie but I doubt he’d then be fit enough to then face Southampton in the Premier League three days later. Arsenal have two games a week for all of December and that fixture list pile up won’t suit the thirty-three year old captain.

Now Emery deployed veteran defender Stephan Lichtsteiner in Arsenal’s recent win over Huddersfield Town. The Swiss star is capable of filling in but he too is ageing and might struggle with the demands that Christmas in England brings.

Personally, I’d like to see young new summer recruit Matteo Guendouzi given a chance to shine in the central defensive position.

The nineteen year old has shown that he’s got the guts to play in the English top flight and that he doesn’t go missing in games.

We know that Emery likes to play from the back and Matteo could be used as a ball playing centre-half. At 88.6%, his passing success rate is the third best at the club this season. (Stats provided by Whoscored)

Defensively, the youngster has helped his team’s cause by making around two tackles per league appearance. He’s also the club’s third most efficient player, when it comes to making interceptions.

Being young, Matteo will be eager to impress and will have an experienced head like Sokratis playing in alongside him and that could really speed up his defensive development. You’d also have Laurent Koscielny and Lichtsteiner helping from the sidelines, on the training pitch or in battleground alongside him too.

While Guendozi doesn’t have the best record in the air, he stands at just over six feet tall and he could improve on his heading stats by having a spell in the backline.

I honestly think Matteo Guendouzi could really help his team out this December, if he’s asked to play in a back three. The youngster is energetic, passionate, good on the ball and intelligent. Those attributes good see him doing well in an Emery defensive line.

 

Three Possible January Transfers For Liverpool As Klopp Looks To Strengthen

Liverpool may not have played with the attacking verve of last season, but they find themselves firmly in the hunt for the Premier League title as the pivotal festive period approaches. The similarly influential January transfer window also looms large on the horizon. Jurgen Klopp is all but certain to dive into the market in order to give his side a boost ahead of the business end of the domestic and European campaigns.

Here are three names that may be heavily linked with a move to Liverpool.

KEREM DEMIRBAY

The name may not be too familiar to audiences who primarily focus on English football, but Hoffenheim’s 25-year-old central midfielder is said to be firmly on the radar of Jurgen Klopp. These rumours have been swirling for a while, with Liverpool suggested to have been on the verge of swooping for the German international until he succumbed to an ankle injury at the start of 2018.

Demirbay is capable of using his strength to find space in the middle of the park to maximise his incisive vision and precise left foot. His arrival would probably spell bad news for Jordan Henderson, although Demirbay may be considered a potential upgrade on an allegedly unsettled Fabinho.

CHRISTIAN PULISIC 

The American star has found his playing time at Borussia Dortmund restricted by the remarkable rise of Jadon Sancho, which has alerted the attention of Chelsea and Liverpool. Chelsea may be able to offer the 20-year-old Pulisic more football in the short term, but Klopp will hope that he can convince the American that any title ambitions will be more achievable in red rather than blue. The odds in the Betfair premier league betting market on the Exchange support that argument; Manchester City and Liverpool are well ahead of the chasing pack, able to be backed at prices of 1.24 and 6.4 respectively as of December 5th. Chelsea will struggle to catch the top two, but Liverpool cling to fading hopes that they can overhaul City.

A signing such as Pulisic, rumoured to be available for £70 million, would reinvigorate those hopes. Manchester City have been able to cope almost effortlessly with the long-term absence of Kevin de Bruyne due to their strength in depth; could Liverpool cope with similar ease if something were to happen to Mane or Salah? Pulisic would certainly help in this regard.

HOUSSEM AOUAR

It may not just be back-up to Salah that is required in the next couple of years; a direct replacement would be needed if the Egyptian heeds the advice of his national team manager Javier Aguirre. That exit would be contingent on Liverpool’s failure to win trophies, but Klopp will be hoping that it doesn’t come to that.

Still, Lyon’s Aouar would be an ideal candidate to step into the Egyptian’s shoes. While Liverpool may add an extra chapter to the transfer saga of Nabil Fekir in January (Via The Guardian), Klopp could be tempted to swoop for Fekir’s team-mate. Many clubs are said to be sniffing around the midfielder who has invited comparisons with Philippe Coutinho. At 20, Aouar has time on his side, but Liverpool may have to act quickly to secure his long-term future.

The rumours seem to suggest that Klopp is keen to bolster his attacking options, having finally established a settled defence ahead of a reliable goalkeeper. While Xherdan Shaqiri is improving with every performance and Divock Origi came back from the cold in style against Everton, having strength in depth is essential if Liverpool are to match Manchester City stride for stride.

Diogo Dalot Shows Why Jose Mourinho Should Trust Man United Youth

For the first time this season, Manchester United managed to hit four goals in one game as they defeated Fulham at Old Trafford.

Their 4-1 win over The Cottagers was The Red Devils first Premier League win in their last four attempts. It also moved the English giants back into the top six.

Two of the club’s younger players starred in the win, with right back Diogo Dalot and Marcus Rasford giving their side a much needed fresh impetus.

Nineteen year old Dalot arrived in a £19m deal from FC Porto in the summer. He’s been used sparingly thus far but when he’s played he’s looked very decent.

Yesterday was the first time Diogo managed to play two games in a row and he handled the occasion well.

He had a tricky night against Arsenal in mid-week, where he was up against Sead Kolasinac and, at times, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Now while the Portuguese under-21 star looked a bit raw at times, he was persistent in trying to do his job both defensively and going forward.

When you look at the stats from Whoscored on the game, you’ll notice that Diogo won more tackles and aerial battles than Kolasinac.

Dalot flourished more against Claudio Ranieri’s Fulham, especially when he was going forward. The full-back was a constant threat down the right-side and offered up plenty of accurate crosses into the penalty area.

In what was only his second Premier League start, the teenager showed great composure beyond his tender years. He managed to keep fellow teen and hot prospect Ryan Sessegnon quiet.

The United youngster had eighty touches of the ball (the fifth best tally on the park) and he also made three key passes for teammates. He also, along with Rashford, had the most successful amount of dribbles.

Defensively the right back once again showed us that he’s good in the air, winning all of his three aerial duels. He also enjoyed a 100% tackling success record.

The young defender showed a willingness not to sit back, he was always willing to burst forward and his crossing into the box helped keep the opposition on the back foot. United have often lacked that positive attitude this season.

Matteo Darmian hasn’t been consistent enough at Old Trafford and it seems as though it would be better for all parties if he leaves to revive his career elsewhere. Club captain Antonio Valencia isn’t getting any younger and according to The Bleacher Report the veteran is going to depart Man United after a series of rows with boss Jose Mourinho.

It seems clear to me, that Diogo Dalot is going to be United’s longterm right back and he could be the man that finally fills the void left by the retired Gary Neville.

After his recent performances, I’d personally keep him in the team and make use of his energy and enthusiasm.

Marcus Rashford was another young player that had a fine game this Saturday. The England international was played out on the left and he constantly looked to attack the opposition’s backline.

He was a threat from set-pieces and his fine display was rewarded with a goal from a superb strike.

No United player has bettered Rashford’s five league assists, so far this term.  As well as his goal yesterday; he created two assists, made the most successful amount of dribbles and created three key passes.

People may slate Jose for not playing Marcus enough but I don’t buy into that theory. We’ve seen plenty of the young forward in the last three seasons. The twenty-one year old has made eighty Premier League appearances alone. Granted a lot of those were from the bench, but he’s definitely getting plenty of game time.

I believe the issue is that Mourinho isn’t always playing Rashford to his strengths.

The coach is playing the international in wide positions and he wants to see defensive discipline from his wide-men. Marcus broke onto the scene as a goal getting forward and now he’s being moulded into Jose’s more pragmatic style.

Unfortunately when you ask a young attacker to be more defensive minded, you sometimes take away some of that explosive creativity that got them noticed in the first place.

I still think Mourinho needs to let his team go more on the front foot and really attack teams. If they go into games with a’ defend at all costs’ attitude it seems to confuse things within the team and they end up panicking.

Another young guy that’s outplaying a lot of the older players has been Anthony Martial.

The young French forward hasn’t always enjoyed his time playing under Jose but when he gets a run in the team, he performs. He possesses terrific pace, can glide beyond markers and he can be as lethal as a Thierry Henry.

Martial is Man Utd’s leading scorer this term with seven league goals in nine starts!

Luke Shaw has comeback from the brink to regain his place in the starting eleven and he too has been one of the better performers for the Red Devils this year. He’s made twelve starts; makes on average two successful tackles per game and around three clearances too.

Mourinho has even praised Shaw to Sky Sports for turning his Man United career around and earning himself a new deal:

“The kid was very focused on his objectives and he got what he fought for. He really fought for it. He got a new contract that keeps him here for many years.”

Surely it’s time for Jose Mourinho to realise that he needs to field these youngsters more and more. They give the line-up a freshness and a hunger that they seem to desperately need.

The fans will give you more time and buy into what you’re doing at Old Trafford, if they see young players out there giving it everything and attacking teams.

You’ll not get superb performances all the time from them but they’ll bounce back; as Shaw, Martial and Rashford have all proven this term!

Felipe Anderson Adds Much Needed Flair To West Ham United

Credit @F_Anderson (Twiiter)

 

Some people queried at the start of the season; what does new signing Felipe Anderson bring to West Ham United?

The Hammers endured a tough start to their Premier League campaign and a few started to question the decision to splash out around £35m for the Brazilian.

Yet the London side soon hit their stride and it wasn’t a coincidence that Anderson had started to settle into the English top flight at the same time.

The forward gives Manuel Pellegrini’s side a lovely bit of flair.

West Ham fans are known to favour players that keep them entertained, like Paolo Di Canio and Dimitri Payet did previously in the claret and blue, and Felipe is certainly an entertainer. His skill with the ball at his feet really galvanises the crowd.

The player himself stated last month in the match day programme (via Evening Standard) that he wanted to follow in Di Canio’s footsteps:

“I saw him many times and knew his importance there and here,”  

“I want to follow in his steps, play like him and earn a reputation like him. He was a great player and I want to follow that.”

That should be music to the ears of West Ham supporters.

Yesterday, the twenty-five year old grabbed his team’s winner as they beat fellow Londoners Crystal Palace. The goal was sublime! The Brazilian cut in from the lefthand side and from the edge of the box he expertly curled his shot around an opposing defender and into the opposite corner giving the Eagles keeper no chance.

Those pieces of magic can be priceless for those that love the ‘West Ham Way’!

After the Hammers precarious start to the season, they have found some form and now occupy tenth spot in the league and are only five points behind sixth placed Manchester United.

Winger Anderson leads the club’s league scoring chart with his six strikes in his first sixteen appearances. He’s also got one assist to his name but the Brazil international plays a big part in a lot of the build up play that leads to goals.

Felipe makes around 1.8 key passes per game, which is more than any of his teammates. On average he’s getting more touches than the rest and he makes 43 passes per Premier League fixture too.

The former Lazio player isn’t just a flair player though, he does trackback and works hard for the team. He’s currently his side’s third best tackler, making 2.4 tackles per ninety minutes according to Whoscored.

I think the West Ham midfield looks strong with the likes of Declan Rice, Robert Snodgrass and Mark Noble performing well in recent weeks. Felipe Anderson gives them added creative craft and that ability to change games with his flamboyant directness.

After his team’s victory over Palace, Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini told Football.London that he thinks that there’s more to come from his samba star:

“I think Felipe is, as I said last week, still needs time to get used to the Premier League but in every game he has demonstrated he is a top player.”

I agree with Pellegrini, I think Anderson is still adapting to the style of the Premier League and he’ll be a danger to any opponent once he’s fully settled into his new surroundings.

That should really excite the West Ham United support as they have a gifted star on their hands!

Guardiola Should Look At Ruben Neves To Enhance Man City’s Midfield Options

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been looking high and low for a new midfield dictator.

In the summer plenty of media were linking the Premier Legaue champions with a move for Italian international Jorginho, The Guardian even suggested that a deal was close. Then Chelsea stepped in and signed the former Napoli man.

Recently via Manchester Evening News, Ajax young midfielder Frenkie de Jong was linked heavily with a move to Man City. According to The Sun, it now seems as though the Dutch internationalist has instead decided to join Ligue 1 champions PSG.

With Fernandinho not getting any younger and with Ilkay Gundogan having major injury issues, you can see why Pep is so determined to bring in another midfielder who can help control games from the engine room.

It might be worthwhile for the City coach to look at Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves.

The Portuguese midfielder has had a great start to life in the English Premier League. His passing success stats are averaging at around 84% (from Whoscored) and Guardiola would want that to be higher but it would be easier when playing alongside Bernardo Silva, David Silva and the like.

Neves never seems to hide from the ball, he makes on average 57.6 passes per league game and that’s more than Gundogan.

Ruben is also very intelligent and that allows him to make around two interceptions per game. He also makes around 2.3 tackles in midfield positions. His defensive stats have been better that Fernandinho’s, so far this season.

The Portuguese internationalist also possess great vision and can hit great long passes or excellent through balls for teammates. He’s the type of player that keeps the ball moving and that falls nicely into the style Pep likes to see his teams play.

Being just twenty-one years old, if Neves were to arrive at the Etihad, I’d expect Guardiola to treat Ruben like compatriot Bernardo Silva. Silva arrived last term and had to wait for his opportunities as he got used to City’s style and that of the English top flight. For me, I believe if Ruben were to sign for Man City then he’d start his Citizens career as Fernandinho’s understudy.

Will Manchester City make a move for Ruben Neves in the next transfer window? Well that remains to be seen. We are in that hectic festive period and that means clubs get linked with a host of players.

That being said, I really believe that the young Wolves midfielder would excite Pep Guardiola and he’d fit the bill if Manchester City are indeed looking for a new midfield general that can come in and help them dictate games.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo told the Express and Star that he’s not fussed by the speculation:

“We are not surprised (Neves has been linked) because there is always speculation when our players play good.

“We ignore the situations, it doesn’t affect us, the players know the reality, there is no transfers now so there is no point of talking.”

 

 

Man United Are In Decline & Jose Mourinho Should Go

When I look at Manchester United, all I see at the moment is a team in turmoil.

We are now into Jose Mourinho’s third year as the club’s manager and usually he struggles to get beyond this season. The Portuguese manager often loses the dressing room, results start to falter and the players no longer play for their manager.

If I’m being honest, it looks like history is repeating itself for Jose.

He won a few trophies in his first campaign and he guided The Red Devils to a second place finish last term but now things are looking bleak.

United are now sitting in eighth position in the Premier League after fifteen games. They are a full eighteen points behind league leaders Manchester City and are eight points behind fourth placed Chelsea. Man United currently have a goal difference of minus one!

They haven’t won in their last four league games and that’s simply not good enough!

Mourinho doesn’t seem to have the right answers and his approach is alienating a lot of players as he picks on certain individuals within his playing squad. As we’ve seen in the past, being overly critical of players for a sustained period of time will just create a negativity at a football club and they stop playing for their manager.

The manager left out his two most expensive signings in Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, in his side’s latest draw with Arsenal. Some might see that as Jose standing up to egos in his dressing room but he was the man that signed them in the first place and he’s not getting the most out of these players. Let’s not forget that both Pogba and Lukaku excelled during this summer’s World Cup, they’ve not become bad players overnight.

The United gaffer is also forever changing his line-ups and formations. Proving he doesn’t know his favoured system and that he’s struggling to get consistency from his players.

It’s funny because some fans look at last night’s draw with The Gunners as a sign that there’s still strength within the team. But I think it just proves the manager isn’t getting the best out of his squad.

Jose seemed to admit as much to the BBC after the game:

“As always we made mistakes and we paid for the mistakes.”

Yes they came back twice to draw the game but Arsenal in recent seasons were a team in decline, yesterday’s result actually shows us that they are improving while United are now falling away. Would Man United have been happy with a draw with Arsenal during the last few years of Arsene Wenger’s reign? I don’t think so.

Unai Emery has managed to come into the Emirates and solve a few problems in North London. He’s brought in players that add fight in the midfield, they play with a new attacking edge and the players clearly believe in his footballing philosophy.

At the moment, Man United players only seem to react when the chips are down! They can’t grab games by the scruff of the neck or dictate vital encounters.

At times the players seem to lack passion and look void of any creativity. Yet we’ve seen this before, during Jose’s last season as Chelsea boss. The players suffer enough criticism from their own boss that they learn to just accept it.

According to The Manchester Evening News, nine first teamers have contracts that expire in 2019. Man Utd have a yearly option on a few of those players but the fact so many have still not signed isn’t a great sign.

United have already taken out that yearly option on goalkeeper David de Gea’s deal (via The Guardian) but again it doesn’t look good if your best player seems reluctant to sign a long term contract to stay at your club.

Potential transfer targets might look at United’s current situation and be put off.

I truly believe that Man United need a big change to happen and that could be sacking their manager.

The board didn’t help Jose Mourinho during the summer, when the boss wanted to bring in some new defenders. They’ve been rotten at the back for much of this season. That hesitation in the transfer market, suggests that the board were already second guessing Jose.

Should they really splash out big on his recommendations this January? Let’s not forget that he’s not getting anywhere near the best out of his current crop, so it would a no from me.

Maybe it’s time to rip off the band aid and bring in someone new to try and get rid of the toxic atmosphere that is surrounding Old Trafford. United’s results tell us that Mourinho just doesn’t have the answers to turn this around.

Why Rangers Striker Alfredo Morelos Reminds Me Of Celtic Hero Chris Sutton

You always get these players that the home support love and every other support seems to hate.

At Rangers, that current player is Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos. Back in the day, Celtic forward Chris Sutton had the same reputation.

Sutton used to be hated by opposing fans but the Hoops faithful really appreciated him.

Why? Because the Englishman played on the edge.

Chris would use his physicality to bully opposition defenders, he wore his heart on his sleeve and would do everything for the jersey, even if it infuriated other teams and their supporters. Sometimes his elbows would stick out, he loved pinning defenders back and in fairness to Sutton he took plenty back.

If a defender is unnerved by an attacker and is moaning about that player, then the forward is doing his job.

In recent years many a pundit or writer, myself included, have stated that Rangers have lacked a backbone and had a weak centre.

As reported by the Daily Record, this time last year former Gers manager Ally McCoist also said as much:

“Rangers are soft. I can’t believe I’m saying it but there’s a softness about them.”

Yet fast forward a year and opposition managers seem to come out most weeks and have a go at Morelos and complain about the striker.

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson made some pointed remarks which seemed to be aimed at Morelos after his side’s loss to Gers in November (Via The Herald):

“Certain players get away with certain things every week.”

After last weekend’s defeat to Rangers, Hearts gaffer Craig Levein came out and stated his anger, to BBC Scotland, at how the referee managed Alfredo during the game:

“I’ve lost my voice from shouting at the referee,” 

“It was a terrible performance – it really was. How Morelos gets away with what he gets away with, I just don’t understand.”

Morelos has matured in recent months, under new Gers manager Steven Gerrard. He’s not reacting as quickly as he did to provocation and seems more focused in his job.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t a nuisance and isn’t committing fouls because he is, Yet what he’s doing more and more of, is getting into the thick of the action.

Alfredo will use his strength to battle with centre-backs and he won’t react the same way when he’s kicked. Instead of having a go back and getting booked, he’ll now go down and win a free-kick. He will also then go in hard during his challenges and getting a reaction from the opposition.

The young forward has developed and adapted his game to his surroundings. He’s always had a keen eye for goal and that has continued as he leads the Scottish Premiership’s scoring charts with his nine goals in fourteen league appearances. He’s scored in each of his last seven domestic fixtures.

His performances this term have won him his first international cap and that shows you how rounded he’s become as a striker.

The twenty-two year old is a hero to the Rangers faithful and he’s fast becoming the most hated figure at a lot of other footballing grounds in Scotland.

Like Chris Sutton before him, Alfredo Morelos needs to continue to embrace the physical side of the game and continue to get into the minds of the opposing defenders. Cards will continue to come his way and critics will continue to criticise him but the only thing that should matter to him is winning with Rangers.

As the Ibrox chant goes ‘No one likes us, We don’t care!

Alfredo Morelos needs to take that to heart and be the player that Gers fans love and other fans hate!

Arsenal Showing Real Guts And Desire Under Unai Emery

Arsenal have looked like a different beast since Unai Emery has taken over the managerial hot-seat from long serving boss Arsene Wenger.

The Gunners have looked fitter, stronger and less fragile mentally.

Yet up until today, people still wondered if they were still weak when facing other top sides in the Premier League. Earlier in the campaign they lost to Manchester City and Chelsea. They did look brighter against Liverpool at home but they still dropped points in that draw with the Merseyside club.

So it was always going to be a telling game when they faced North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Today they played hosts to Mauricio Pochettino’s men and Arsenal proved that they have what it takes to win big games, even when the chips are down.

They would beat Spurs by a 4-2 scoreline in an end to end game. The result means that Emery’s men have leapfrogged their derby rivals into the top four.

Arsenal took the lead early on but were a goal down going into the half-time break. Then in the second half, The Gunners stepped it up a gear and scored three times to take the vital victory.

It’s interesting that Arsenal won the game playing to their new strengths.

Emery recognised that his team needed to have a stronger midfield spine. Under Wenger, Arsenal’s midfield had lost any bite and they didn’t have players in there willing to fight and get the ball back.

Lucas Torreira was brought in from Sampdoria and the Uruguayan international was super today. According to Whoscored, he made 48 passes and 90% of those passes were successful. The midfielder also made three successful tackles out of three attempts. The defensive minded player also charged forward to claim the game’s final goal.

The twenty-two year old’s disciplined performances in the engine room have also managed to bring out the best in fellow holding midfielder Granit Xhaka. The Swiss star was also hard in the challenge and he made 45 accurate passes in the game. Only two players (Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding) touched the ball more than Xhaka.

Emery also arrived at the Emirates looking to play from the back and having a sweeper keeper. He originally gave the gloves to veteran Petr Cech but Bernd Leno was signed in the knowledge that the German can play in that passing style.

Cech suffered from an injury and Leno hasn’t looked back. Today he had more touches the Spurs man Hugo Lloris and had more successful passes too.

The Spanish coach is also capable of adapting and tweaking his formations.

He also noticed that his main forwards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are better when they play together.

Today Unai may have started Lacazette on the bench but he was brought on in the second half to make an impact and that’s what the Frenchman did by grabbing the goal that gave Arsenal the lead in the seventy-fourth minute.

Livewire Aubameyang was a threat throughout and he thoroughly deserved his brace and his assist. The striker is currently leading the scoring charts with his ten strikes

The two goalscorers seem to love playing alongside each other and they’ve now scored sixteen Premier League goals between them, that tally is better than eight top-flight teams have managed so far this term. Only Man City have scored more than Arsenal this term in the league.

Arsenal have a confidence about them and the players seem to have bought into Emery’s game plan. That has seen the team go on a twelve game unbeaten run.

I also think the Gunners support would have liked what they heard from their boss during his post-match press conference (Via Football.London):

“This was a very big victory, we give our supporters this victory because it’s a special match for them.

“It’s special as well for us, but it’s three points – like in Bournemouth last weekend.”

We need to continue in our process. Today, for our confidence was a big match.”

It shows that Unai Emery understands that he’ll be judged on winning the big games but that to win trophies or finish in the top four that you need to be consistently winning.

The Performance showed us that Arsenal are getting better under their new gaffer and that things are improving. If Emery can bring in another centre-back in the next transfer window, then I believe they’ll be a team to watch in 2019!

Mario Jardel: The Greatest Rangers Signing That Didn’t Happen

I will never forget the day in January 1996 when it looked as though Rangers were about to sign a Brazilian superstar named Mario Jardel.

The player was paraded sporting Gers gear and he was seen at Ibrox taking in a Rangers game. Now I’m not going to lie, a lot was also made of Jardel’s glamours wife, who kind of upstaged him in the photoshoots.

At the time, I was twelve years old and I knew via World Soccer magazine that Mario had been scoring for fun in his homeland. He’d scored sixty-seven times in seventy-three appearances for Gremio. When the deal was being put together, we also saw grainy footage of the young striker scoring his goals during his successful Copa Libertadores campaign on our local news bulletin.

Too me, he was the world class signing that would taken Rangers to the next level in the Champions League. What prolific hitman wouldn’t score plenty of goals with creative stars like Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne supplying the ammunition?

Yet as quickly as the move was announce, it was dead in the water.

The official line seemed to be that Jardel didn’t possess the Portuguese passport that he thought he had or thought he could easily obtain, thus meaning he wasn’t an EU national and didn’t have the Brazilian international caps needed to gain a work permit.

I also remember a few stories doing the rounds regarding why the deal broke down.

Speculation at the time suggested that Rangers hopes of signing Jardel were ruined because the SFA only handed out ten work permits at the time and Kilmarnock had requested to gain the last one for Ghanian defender Sammy Adei. This report from The Herald back in early 96 backs up that story, with a quote from Hamish Walker from the Scottish Football League who said:

“We have received this application for Adei from Kilmarnock and we will now advise the Home Office of the details. It will be up to them to decide if it will be granted or not but, by the terms of the Scottish League management committee decision, Rangers will not now be able to apply on behalf of their player until this situation regarding Adei is decided.”

Another line that went round the schoolyard was that during a trial for the Glasgow giants Jardel failed to impress, with then Gers assistant manager Archie Knox supposedly saying that the player couldn’t ‘trap a bag of cement’.

Others stated that the hitman had a toe infection during this time or had cut his foot on glass, so didn’t look too hot in training. I doubt these particular theories as the player was pictured in a Rangers training top and paraded in front of the home crowd before Rangers took on Raith Rovers in January 1996.

His wife supposedly didn’t like the Scottish climate (looking outside today, I wouldn’t blame her). I also doubt this story too.

A year on from the collapsed deal Mario was still hopeful of going to Rangers, even though he was a star in Europe by this stage with FC Porto. In a quote (sourced via Unibet) obtained before his Porto side took on Manchester United, Jardel stated he was still hoping to shine in Glasgow:

“I will be playing specially for Walter and for Rangers…Porto are a great young team, but they do not have world renowned players like Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup. The dream of playing for Rangers has been kept alive in the past year and a half, and I haven’t missed one of their games on television….nothing would make me happier than to play and score goals for Rangers and Walter Smith.”

It’s believed that Walter Smith did indeed checkout Jardel during this encounter against Man United and was pondering about making another move for the Brazilian. The Herald reported at the time that the Brazilian striker, who scored thirty goals in thirty-one Portuguese league games during his debut season, had a £4m release clause in his deal.

In the end though, Smith and Rangers would instead sign Italian striker Marco Negri from Perugia in a deal worth about £500k less than the proposed move for Jardel.

Jardel proved his goalscoring pedigree in Portugal. He scored 130 Primeira Liga goals in 125 top flight games for FC Porto. He would then join Turkish champions Galatasaray for a €17m fee.

The free scoring attacker would bag himself thirty-four goals in his one and only season for The Yellow-Reds. One of those goals was in the Champions League against the side that he was constantly linked with… Rangers!

As you can see from the video below, it was a gem of strike as the Brazilian international scored with a first time volley from outside the penalty area.

After just a year in Turkey, Jardel was back in Portugal. This time he was banging in goals for Sporting Lisbon.

He was once again a goal machine in the Primeira Liga, scoring fifty-three times in forty-nine outings.

The twenty-nine year old forward was once again linked with a move to Ibrox, as reported by Sky Sports.

But by this time, Rangers weren’t the same spending force they once were and Jardel wasn’t the player he once was either. It was probably for the best that the move didn’t happen at this stage as it would have diluted the excitement and mystery that has always surrounded the player and his possible move to Ibrox.

In 2002, Jardel (who had just won his second golden boot award) was suffering from numerous injuries, had been left out of Brazil’s World Cup squad and had divorced from his wife.

He would later state (via Evening Standard) that drugs were also an issue during this time:

“It all started with bad friendships. Then came my divorce, depression and drugs.”

Mario would end up playing for a British club, but the once prolific marksmen drew a blank at Bolton Wanderers. His spell at the Reebok was remembered more for his massive weight gain rather than any goalscoring feats.

The player would then become a footballing nomad moving pretty constantly; spending time in Argentina, Bulgaria, Australia and Cyprus to name just a few of his destinations.

The forward eventually retired in 2011. He would then have a go in politics but lost his job in Brazil’s Chamber of Duties due to allegations regarding fraud and drugs.

Mario Jardel will be remembered for a few things. He’ll be remembered for those seven or so seasons where he was one of the most prolific strikers in Europe. He’ll be remembered by some for his terrific weight gain and for his falls from grace!

To me, I will always remember Mario Jardel for being the one that got away at Rangers. The striker that may have been the difference maker in Europe. His Champions League record is very healthy having scored twenty-five times in UEFA’s top club competition.

That being said he might have turned up at Ibrox and injured his knee like Sebastian Rozental or been a one season wonder like Marco Negri. It did seem like their was a bit of a jinx when it came to Rangers and strikers during that era.